Reading Borough Council (RBC) has lost an estimated £6 million and 515 affordable homes due to national planning legislation introduced six years ago.

The government extended the ‘prior approval’ system in May 2013, allowing developers to convert office buildings to housing without planning permission.

RBC cannot claim affordable housing contributions nor charge regular planning fees to developments which proceed through ‘prior approval’.

The legislation has had a ‘devastating’ impact on the council, according to Cllr Tony Page, the lead member for planning.

Cllr Page attacked the policy at RBC’s Planning Applications committee on Wednesday, March 3, saying local government was united against it across all parties.

He said: “The hit to this authority has been devastating. With the pressure on our housing list, on school places, on our need to maintain open spaces, think of what this money could have provided.

“This blinkered, ideologically incoherent rabble that now represents the DCLG and all other departments are simply ignoring the strong representations from local government.”

The planning rights were initially temporary legislation until May 2016 but were made permanent law in April 2016.

The largest figure – an estimated £2.8 million – has been lost in Section 106 contributions to off-site affordable housing.

515 affordable on-site housing units would also have been provided had the legislation not been introduced, according to RBC.

However, the council accepts that, in some cases, affordable housing contributions would have been reduced following viability assessments.

Approximately £2.1 million in contributions to education, leisure and open space has also been lost.

1,708 residential units have been approved through the prior approval process since its introduction in May 2013, with 750 homes completed under the development right.

By changing the rules to make this change of use a prior approval procedure, the council has lost a further £1 million through not being able to charge its normal tariff for planning applications.

Cllr Page added that the losses ‘come on top of over £50m worth of grants that the government has taken away from Reading’.

The fee paid to local planning authorities for processing applications for prior approval was £80 when first introduced but increased to £96 in spring 2018.